x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pakistan to import gas from Qatar

Officials say Pakistan has agreed to import natural gas from Qatar following delays on a proposal to build a pipeline to transport the fuel from Iran.

Pakistan regularly suffers power cuts because it has inadequate supplies of gas to fuel power stations.
Pakistan regularly suffers power cuts because it has inadequate supplies of gas to fuel power stations.

Pakistan has agreed to import natural gas from Qatar following delays on a proposal to build a pipeline to transport the fuel from Iran, officials say. Pakistani and Qatari officials met yesterday in Doha and reached a preliminary agreement to ship 1.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year to Pakistan, a government energy adviser told Bloomberg. "There is a shortage," said Asim Hussain, a petroleum and natural resources adviser to the Pakistani government. "We are a country that is not self-sufficient in gas."

Pakistan had originally sought 3.2 million tonnes, but Qatar could not provide that amount, Mr Hussain said. Pakistan regularly suffers power cuts because it has inadequate supplies of gas to fuel power stations. The country faces a gas shortage of about 192 million cubic feet per day (cfd), according to estimates released earlier this year by the ministry of petroleum resources. That amount will grow to 507 million cfd next year and reach 3 billion cfd by 2015.

The volumes of LNG under discussion yesterday would work out to about 200 million cfd. LNG is gas that is cooled to a liquid state for transport by tanker. It commands a premium to pipeline gas, but Pakistan has few other options. Domestic reserves are inadequate, and officials have disclosed little progress on a stalled plan to pipe gas from Iran through Pakistan to India. The scheme envisions construction of a 2,100km pipeline to transport about 1 billion cfd from Iran's South Pars field.

India has shown little enthusiasm for the project, but Iran and Pakistan last month signed an agreement to construct the pipeline and give the full volume to Pakistan. But in the absence of financial support from India, the project was unlikely to proceed, particularly because of security concerns about laying a pipeline through Pakistan's restive north-west tribal region, said Samuel Ciszuk, an analyst at IHS Global Insight.

"There's still no progress on it, and you have the whole security issue obstructing it," he said. "It makes sense for Pakistan to look somewhere else." * with Bloomberg cstanton@thenational.ae